Thursday, December 29, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Coins

Continuing with the so-called anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, critics write:

“The Book of Mormon describes in detail a system of weights and measures used by the Nephite society. However, the archaeological record shows that the overall use of metal in ancient America appears to have been extremely limited. A more common exchange medium in Mesoamerica were cacao beans.”

The cacao bean, also cocoa bean, called kakaw in Mayan, cacaua in Nahuatl, and baba de cacao in South America, is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of Theobroma cacao from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted—which is the basis of chocolate as well as many Mesoamerican foods. The cocoa tree is native to the Americas and may have originated in the foothills of the Andes, the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America. It was cultivated by the Olmecs in 1500 B.C. in Central America.

Cocoa is said to have originated in the Amazon at least 4,000 years ago, around 2000 B.C., and the chocolate, derived from the seed of the cocoa tree, was used by the Maya Culture, as early as the Sixth Century AD. Maya called the cocoa tree cacahuaquchtl… "tree," and the word chocolate comes from the Maya word xocoatl which means bitter water. To the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility... nothing could be more important! Stones from their palaces and temples revealed many carved pictures of cocoa pods. The Mayan territory stretched from the Yucatán Peninsula to the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, and in the Yucatán, the Mayas cultivated the earliest known cocoa plantations.

The cocoa pod was often represented in religious rituals, and the texts their literature refer to cocoa as the god’s food, and the Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and also that it had nourishing, fortifying, and even aphrodisiac qualities. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma drank thick chocolate dyed red. The drink was so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after only one use. He liked it so much that he was purported to drink 50 goblets every day, and 2000 more by the nobles of his court! The Aztecs attributed the creation of the cocoa plant to their god Quetzalcoatl who, descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree stolen from paradise. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures cocoa was the basis for a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called xocoatl… believed to be a health elixir. Since sugar was unknown to the Aztecs, different spices were used to add flavor, even hot chili peppers and corn meal.

The cocoa bean was a common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest. Columbus took back to Spain from his first voyage several cocoa beans, which did not elicit much attention, and on his fourth voyage in 1502, he landed on what is today Nicaragua and discovered that cocoa beans were used for currency. Records show that 400 cocoa beans equaled one Zontli, while 8000 beans equaled one Xiquipilli. When the Aztecs conquered tribes, they demanded their payment in cocoa! By subjugating the Chimimeken and the Mayas, the Aztecs strengthened their supremacy in Mexico. Records dating from 1200 show details of cocoa deliveries, imposed on all conquered tribes.

In 1513, Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez, who went to America in 1513 as a member of Pedrarias Avila's expedition, reports that he bought a slave for 100 cocoa beans. According to Hernando de Oviedo y Valdez 10 cocoa beans bought the services of a woman, and 4 cocoa beans got you a rabbit for dinner. Hernando Cortez, who conquered part of Mexico in 1519, had a vision of converting these beans to golden doubloons and was much intrigued by the beans’ value as currency.

The Spanish chroniclers who followed the conquistadors to Mexico noted with amazement when they saw that cocoa beans were used as currency. At that time there were three major cocoa-producing regions: Chontalpa and Soconusco in Mexico, and the Ulua basin in Honduras—and production, circulation and consumption of the precious beans were tightly controlled by the nobles and merchants of the Valley of Mexico and Yucatin.

Cocoa was a primitive form of exchange and could not perform all the functions of money. It was widely used as a medium of exchange, but to measure value the Aztecs and Mayas tended to use quachtli, pieces of cotton fabric, which represented a given amount of work. In Yucatan, one quachtli was equivalent to 450 hours of work. Each of the pieces of cloth, which formed part of the tribute raised by the Aztec emperors, was worth almost 100 cocoa beans. Thus, it seems certain that the value of most of the goods in circulation could be expressed in cocoa, but was actually assessed in pieces of cloth at constant value. Obviously, cocoa was the medium of exchange because, unlike the pieces of cloth, it could be divided up as required.

While all this is interesting in regard to Mexico and Central America, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Andean area of South America where there is no record that any kind of natural product, cocoa beans or otherwise, was used for money. Metal coins have been found by archaeologists in South America, and metallurgy there was well known far into B.C. times. Once again, the point is made that when people look to Mesoamerica as the Land of Promise, error after error is unearthed and provides fodder for critics, but is inaccurate from the start and has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon writings.

It might also be of interest to note, that today people use all sorts of items for trade or exchange of services or products, yet it is not considered money, though each has its own value. In the early pioneer days, rabbits, potatoes, melons, even barn animals, would be used for trade. However, it was never looked upon as money, even when given in exchange of services to doctors. For something to really be considered “money,” it had to be made of something durable, otherwise if it broke, deteriorated, fell apart, dissolved, etc., and did not last, it could not be of long term value—called “money.”
Ancient money of bone, iron, precious metal

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